Ecuador Mountaineering School
Elevations: Climbs of Cayambe 18,997 feet/5790 meters; Cotopaxi 19,348 feet/5897 meters and Chimborazo 20,703 feet/6310 meters
Options: 12, 15 & 19 day itineraries available (all include five days of instruction)
Alternative climbs: If conditions on any of the climbs in the itinerary are not ideal options include Antisana or the Illiniza Peaks.
Extensions: Galapagos Islands or a Jungle Adventure with the Huaorani People
This climbing school offers participants the chance to gain new mountaineering skills and apply them to guided high-altitude ascents of Cayambe, Cotopaxi, and Ecuador's highest peak, 20,703-foot Chimborazo. The mountains of Ecuador’s famous “Avenue of the Volcanoes” offer some of the finest mountaineering objectives in the Andes of South America and are set amid a fascinating cultural backdrop.
For those with limited experience, this trip combines abundant learning opportunities with practical application of skills on 18,996 ft. Cayambe. For those with more time, the opportunity to climb Cotopaxi, the highest active volcano in the world, and 20,700 ft. Chimborazo, Ecuador’s highest peak, offers a complete high altitude expedition experience. This popular course is designed for individuals aspiring to learn the fundamental skills of snow, ice, and glacier climbing. Our goal is to develop self-reliant alpine climbers. With the comprehensive curriculum and some hands on expedition climbing this trip is one of our most rewarding South American adventures.
Ideal introductory level high altitude mountaineering
Charming, historic hacienda stays
Excellent cuisine/ all restaraunt meals included in price
One day ascents from huts
Fascinating culture and friendly people
Knowledgeable local and American guides
Option 1 (12 days): School & Cayambe
We begin our adventure in Ecuador with an orientation in Quito (9,400 ft.), the world's second highest capital after La Paz, Bolivia. The city lies in a gently sloping valley beneath peaks rising to 15,000 feet. We spend time exploring Quito and the colorful village of Otavalo, with its wonderful markets displaying handmade goods of the Otavalan Indians. The time spent shopping and additional hikes serves to acclimatize us before we depart to Cayambe. As an added attraction to this wonderful trip we will be staying in charming haciendas and enjoying the fine cuisine Ecuador offers its visitors.
Before the course begins and our ascent of the primary objective, 18,996 foot Cayambe, we acclimatize further with day hikes near Quito and Otavalo. We then journey to Cayambe where accessible glaciers offer an ideal learning environment. After four days of intensive instruction we climb this beautiful peak.
Option 2 (15 days): School & Cayambe and Cotopaxi
For those that continue with the extensions, the next climbing objective is the world's highest active volcano, Cotopaxi. The mountain stands at 19,348 feet in Ecuador's Eastern Cordillera and towers high above an area of altiplano reminiscent of the Scottish moors and three other major peaks, Ruminahui (15,602 feet), Sincholagua (16,360 feet), and Quilindana (16,134 feet). We drive into Cotopaxi National Park, first passing through pine forests and then moving through drier and more open country. You will have the opportunity to see a wide variety of animals, such as wild horses, llamas, and an abundance of bird life. These and many other exciting species of mammals and birds inhabit this ecological zone commonly referred to as the paramo.
From the paramo we will drive to 15,092 feet where we begin our travel by foot. A forty-five minute hike brings us to the Jose Ribas Hut (15,749 ft.) at the base of Cotopaxi. The following day we rest and prepare for our climb.
Leaving in the early morning hours, we begin our summit attempt on non-glaciated snow slopes to reach the glacial platform at 17,000 feet. As the morning progresses, we watch the sun rise over the low clouds that cover the parkland and tropical forests far below. To the north we will be treated to views of the heavily glaciated 18,714 ft. Antisana. After we rope up, we travel over more complex areas of the glacier, crossing snow bridges, skirting large crevasses, and ascending moderate terrain and various short, steep slopes to reach the summit cone. Once at the cone, 35-40 degree snow slopes and a short ridge walk will bring us onto Ecuador's second highest summit. From the summit, you will be awarded with spectacular views of nine major equatorial peaks, the endless Amazon Basin, and Cotopaxi's 1,000 ft. deep, active crater.
Option 3 (18 days): School & Cayambe, Cotopaxi, and Chimborazo
After our summit of Cotopaxi and a relaxing night at the Hacienda La Cienega, we will drive south to Chimborazo. The following day we hike up to the Whymper Hut to an elevation of 16,405 feet. From here we will be able to attempt the summit of Ecuador's highest peak of 20,703 feet! Chimborazo is a tremendous, five-summitted mountain that rises almost 11,000 feet above the central valley. It is actually the highest point in the world from the center of the earth due to the equatorial bulge. It can be seen from Colombia to the north, from Peru to the south, and from far out in the Pacific Ocean. Chimborazo is a volcanic peak, and its various faces offer many challenges to climbers. Our route, the West Face, is moderately steep and, although the climb on this route is not considered technical, the diversity of climbing techniques used, as well as the peak's great height, makes it an incredibly rewarding ascent. You will have a great sense of accomplishment as you stand on top and enjoy the incredible views! In the event that the conditions on Chimborazo are unfavorable, climbers will have the option to summit Antisana or the Illinizas.
Five-day Course Curriculum Includes:
- Snow climbing, ice axe positioning, and moving in balance
- Self arrest techniques
- Snow and ice anchor selection, construction, and equalization
- Ice climbing and crampon techniques
- Prussiking and team crevasse rescue practice
- Rappelling and rope management
- Glaciology and crevasse pattern prediction
- Navigation using maps, altimeters, and compasses
- Roped glacier travel and route finding through crevassed areas
- Mountain weather, alpine ecology, hazard assessment, and Leave No Trace Ethics
- High altitude physiology and other related expeditionary topics